Media Threads April 20, 2019

If you’re interested at all in media – legacy or new – I would suggest two articles Ken Doctor posted to Newsonomics on April 18. In his first post he wrote about possible consolidation in the newspaper industry, including the ongoing battle between Gannett and Alden Global Capital (owners of Digital First Media). And while it’s a tough time to be a newspaper publisher, it’s not just newspapers that are struggling.

Doctor notes that Great Hill Partners recently purchased Gizmodo Media Group from Univision for $40 million. Consider that just three years ago Univision bought Gizmodo for $165 million. And don’t forget about Mashable, which sold for $50 million in 2017, just one sixth of it’s value in 2015.

All of which bring us to Doctor’s second post of the day in which he spoke with Bryan Goldberg, CEO and founder of Bustle Media Group, and new owner digital media brands such as Mic, Gawker, and The Outline.

Goldberg is one of the only buyers left in media, and he’s hoping to strike gold with acquisition prices as low as they are:

It’s a broken market. Not just in terms of prices we’re getting on assets — it’s a broken market in terms of just sort of a liquidity crisis. That’s how I describe it now: There’s just sort of a media liquidity crisis that’s driving prices to be even more nonsensically low. But there’s just going to be beneficiaries of that. I mean, that’s the nature of the market, right? I kind of view it like the real estate market in Florida was in 2010.

Newsonomics: Bryan Goldberg wants to build Bustle into the “Meredith of the digital age”

As a life-long lover of media, I find both of these stories fascinating. At one end you have forces of legacy media fighting over the remains of an industry that, while struggling, continues to drive premium audiences and revenues. At the other end there is a growing industry with an abundance of audience, but it doesn’t demand the kinds of premium revenues it needs to sustain growth.

I believe the day is coming where the two will meet. Legacy media needs the digital infrastructure and growth culture that exists in digital media. Digital media needs the operational discipline and legitimacy that exists in legacy media. That space between is where next generation media companies will be born and thrive.

The end of the pivot to video?

Facebook is working on killing off its Facebook Watch show pages. These pages will revert to Facebook’s standard video pages.

This is just another sign that Facebook will eventually abandon Facebook Watch and that the great pivot to video will be over. This is not to suggest that online video is going anywhere, or that publishers should abandon video – I would suggest the opposite is true.

I believe video is a powerful component to any story, and any media organization should include quality video in its portfolio. And audiences will continue to consume more-and-more video. I think what killed the pivot is platform stubbornness.

Facebook Watch is the perfect illustration on this stubbornness. They decided who could publish, and where audiences could watch – whether audiences liked it or not.

Video is only going to continue to grow and content creators should continue to expand into video. But creators need to understand that audiences will decide when and where they consume that content.
I’ve changed my view on this, but creators need to become platform agnostic.

I used to think that a publisher’s owned and operating website was the only place to distribute video. The reason came down to simplicity and branding. If the focus is publishing on your platform all of the back end operational pieces just work. And when they don’t work, you only have to solve for X.

Being platform agnostic is more difficult. You’re constantly having to solve for every letter in the alphabet. There are countless technology challenges to being platform agnostic – video format and orientation, CMS, ad software, analytics, etc. – but creators have to find a way to overcome them.

When you’re platform agnostic you also need branding discipline. If you want audiences to remember your brand and not the platform your content is displayed on, you need clear consistent branding.

In order to grow creators, including publishers and broadcasters, need to begin solving for variables and building the digital and marketing discipline to survive the pivot bubble. Those that didn’t pivot, but understood what it takes to build an audience, and that video is only part of the offering, will continue to grow. Those that saw video as a quick money-grab tactic, will die or move on to the next pivot – which looks to be podcasting.

Another week, another Facebook privacy issue

Facebook posted on March 21 that some user passwords were being stored in a readable format within Facebook’s data storage systems. The issue was discovered in January during and audit. They fixed the issues and notified users, but this week Facebook updated the post from March 21 with the following:

(Update on April 18, 2019 at 7AM PT: Since this post was published, we discovered additional logs of Instagram passwords being stored in a readable format. We now estimate that this issue impacted millions of Instagram users. We will be notifying these users as we did the others. Our investigation has determined that these stored passwords were not internally abused or improperly accessed).

Keeping Passwords Secure

Maybe these kinds of things are more widespread than any of us realize, and we only hear about these because of Facebook’s visibility, but it feels like Facebook as a company lacks the operational maturity to handle privacy.

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